The Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins have already both managed to dig themselves into a fast-growing hole in the American League Central Division standings.The two teams will square off tonight in the opener of a three-game set at Target Field.
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Corey Kluber beat the Minnesota Twins twice in September during a season-ending win streak that propelled him to the AL Cy Young Award, but he has yet to earn a victory this year despite a pair of solid efforts.
Kluber beat the Twins twice in a five-start winning streak to close 2014, a stretch that helped him win the league’s top pitching honor. He pitched at least eight innings and gave up two runs in the two victories over Minnesota, matching a career high with 14 strikeouts in a 7-2 win at Target Field on Sept. 21.
Kluber set a single-season team mark with seven games of 10-plus strikeouts and one or no walks last year, and had his first such performance of 2015 on Saturday against Detroit. He struck out 10 and walked one while giving up two runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 9-6 loss. He didn’t get a decision.
Kluber (0-1, 2.63 ERA) allowed two runs and three hits while striking out seven in 7 1/3 innings of his season debut April 6, but lost 2-0 at Houston. He’s gotten three runs of support in his two starts after receiving an average of 4.39 per nine innings in 2014.
The Indians (3-5) are batting .224 with 27 runs but did enough to avoid a winless five-game homestand Wednesday, topping the Chicago White Sox 4-2.
Cleveland is looking for its 11th win in 16 games against the Twins (3-6). The Indians took four of their final six in Minnesota in last year.
The Twins dealt previously unbeaten Kansas City back-to-back losses in their last two games, posting their highest run and hit totals (14) this season in an 8-5 victory Thursday.
The Indians won’t have at least one of their top hitters against the Twins last season in this series. Yan Gomes, who batted .333 with six homers and 19 RBI, could miss at least six weeks because of a sprained right knee suffered Saturday.
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Pitching matchups: RHP Corey Kluber (0-1, 2.63) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (0-0, 7.20) Friday at 8:10 p.m.; RHP Danny Salazar (first start) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (0-2, 5.25) Saturday at 2:10 p.m. and LHP T.J. House (0-1, 40.50) vs. RHP Trevor May (0-0, 8.44) Sunday at 2:10 p.m.
Series: The Indians went 11-8 against the Twins last season. The Indians lead the series, 401-375.
Indians update: They’re coming off a 1-4 homestand in which they were swept in a three-game series by the Tigers and split two with Chicago. They’re hitting .224 as a team and averaging 3.4 runs per game.
Twins update: After losing six of their first seven, the Twins beat the red-hot Royals two straight on Wednesday and Thursday. Joe Mauer, a lifetime .339 hitter against the Indians, leads the Twins with a .281 batting average and four RBI.
Injuries: Indians – OF-1B Nick Swisher (knees), C Yan Gomes (right knee), Utility man Zach Walters (right oblique), RHP Gavin Floyd (right knee), RHP Josh Tomlin (right shoulder) are on the disabled list. LF Michael Brantley (back) is day to day.Twins — RHP Ricky Nolasco (right elbow) on the DL.